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New imaging system will help control mosquito-borne disease

A new imaging system has been designed to remotely track mosquitos, according to a study published by The Optical Society (OSA). By improving the way mosquitos are monitored, the technology could help control mosquito-transmitted diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and other mosquito-borne illnesses are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.

The new imaging system will make it easier to track mosquitos that carry disease, facilitating a faster and more targeted response.

“A remote system like ours can dramatically reduce the labor needed to monitor mosquitos in a given area, thus greatly increasing the capability to do more monitoring,” said study lead author Adam Goodwin of Johns Hopkins University. “If you can provide more mosquito data, then you will more quickly catch outbreaks and save more lives.”

The technology is designed to transmit high-resolution images from inside a mosquito trap. The detailed images will allow experts to observe specific wing patterns and other features used to identify mosquito species that carry disease. 

“The new system is a classic application of an internet of things (IoT) device,” said Goodwin. “It could eventually be paired with computer vision algorithms to automatically determine species and provide that information to public health systems.”

Across regions of the world that are hit hard by mosquito-transmitted disease, mosquitos are captured in hundreds of traps. Each week, someone picks up all the traps and delivers them to a lab for inspection. 

“Our new optical system can be placed inside a traditional mosquito trap to provide remote surveillance of the abundance, diversity and distribution of mosquito species,” said Goodwin. “Using imaging is particularly appealing because as long as image quality is high, several mosquitos could be identified from an image at once.”

The development of the system was focused on accurately identifying Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which can spread Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. The species is native to Africa but has established itself in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia.

Using optics and camera sensors that are widely available, the researchers achieved a resolution that is capable of imaging many mosquitos at once with enough details to identify the mosquito species.

“Our new system would be particularly useful in monitoring Aedes aegypti in hard to reach areas and at commercial ports of entry where invasive species can be brought from other countries,” said Goodwin. “It could also expand current surveillance operations for regions already monitoring local populations of Aedes aegypti.”

The researchers will continue to refine the imaging system. They also plan to integrate computer vision algorithms and internet-connectivity into the system. 

“This would enable species information to be sent directly to the public health system for decision-making,” said Goodwin. “This is where we think the system will really shine.”

The study is published in the journal Biomedical Optics Express.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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